It’s Not A White Or Black Thing: Notes From A Trayvon Rally In Arizona

Last week, a woman in Scottsdale decided to organize a rally in Phoenix. She had been watching the news about the young man, Trayvon Martin, who had been killed in Florida. The man who shot him was never arrested, because Florida (along with 23 other states) has a Stand Your Ground Law. This law allows people to defend themselves, even if that means killing the other person, should they feel threatened.

The problem is, in this specific instance, the person who did the shooting was told by police not to follow this young man, but chose to confront him anyway, eventually shooting the young man…saying he felt ‘threatened’. Yes, you read that right; the man who had the gun went after a young man holding a can of tea and skittles and then that same man with the gun, feeling he was in danger, shot the young boy in the stomach and killed him.

The man was not arrested. The dead boy was taken to the morgue, tested for drugs and remained tagged as a ‘John Doe’, even though his cell phone was in his pocket. The police did not contact his family, nor did they answer the cell phone in his pocket, which his dad had been calling, ever since his son had failed to return home.

So this woman in Scottsdale, as has been happening all over America, decided this boy deserved to have his death investigated properly, and if necessary, bring the shooter to justice. So she went on Facebook, word spread, and within four days, people were gathering in downtown Phoenix to demand justice for Trayvon Martin.

Was this incident racism, not only from the shooter who was recorded saying racist remarks on the 911 call before he shot the boy, but also by the police who seemed uninterested in investigating what really happened? Or was this just an angry man who let a situation get out of control, followed by a police department that did a pathetic job following the protocol of a murder investigation? Did the boy being an African-American, in a mostly-white neighborhood, have anything to do with it?

I went to the rally. It was at 5pm on Sunday. By 4:30 I counted 214 people, by 5:00 there were over 700.  Young people, elderly, Black women, White men, Asians, Hispanics and everything in-between. Speeches were made, signs were held aloft, and we chanted and marched to City Hall. Our numbers, by one account, had now reached over 2,000 people.

It was hot and the walk was long, but the energy of the crowd kept us all in high spirits. When we returned to the park we had a moment of silence, a candlelight vigil and hundreds formed a human-chain, in the shape of a giant TM, for the young boy.

I sat on a wall next to Carl, and his son, Keith. Carl is 37, from Phoenix, his son was 9. I asked Carl, “What’s a middle-aged White guy from Phoenix doing marching for a 17-year old Black kid in Florida?”

Carl said to me, “This isn’t a White and Black thing, this is about justice.”  He told me, the way he sees it, in America it seems as though law enforcement in affluent, white neighborhoods are there to protect those they serve, in impoverished neighborhoods, the police seem more there to keep an eye on those who live in the neighborhood, not really seeing them as people any longer.

Then he said, “And I’m here because I’ve been appalled at how the police have acted toward the citizens of Arizona. Law enforcement is supposed to be for everyone, justice is for everyone, not just those who are a certain color, and Arizona has become an embarrassment in front of the rest of the country.” He looked around at the crowd around us and smiled, nodding his head, “I’m happy to see this in my state, I’m glad this many people were willing to come out to show that Arizona is better than the way we’ve been acting.”

The woman on the microphone said, “This is just the beginning…and we’re going to sound this call for justice around the world.”  She wasn’t kidding, because on that same day, rallies and marches were happening in every major city in America.

I asked the young boy, Keith, if he’s ever been to anything like this before. He said no. I asked him what he thought of it, he nodded his head and said, “I think it’s neat how many people are here, and everyone is nice and just wanting to help that boy’s family, that’s cool.”

Keith is right, it is cool.